Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Kat Lee-Ryan

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Spotlight on Kat Lee-Ryan

HOT columnist Sean O’Shea talks with Kat Lee – Ryan, The Fabulous Red Diesel’s (TFRD)  lead singer and songwriter, about her local connections, her collaboration with husband and fellow band member Will Lee-Ryan, her musical influences, her involvement with community issues and hopes for the future.

Watch/listen to: In Your Head  – by TFRD

Visuals by 2nd year animation students Sussex Coast College

TFRD seems to have strong ties with Hasting and St Leonards having performed at St Leonards Festival, played at the recent Jack in the Green Festival – and you continue to do gigs at the Jenny Lind and other neighborhood venues. Could you elaborate a bit on your local connections?

We – that is my husband Will, the drummer, and I – moved to Hastings in 2004 from North London. We have always involved ourselves in the musical scene where we live, we put on a lot of gigs in our bit of London, and so when we moved here, we did the same. If you can succeed in your home town then you have cracked it, so that’s what we set out to do.

Will Lee-Ryan and you have been described as a dynamo combination (Music & Sound, HOT, December 2012, Erica Smith). Would you like to tell us more about your collaboration with Will?

I would say that he is the bedrock of the band as well as the power behind me. When I fall back he picks me up, when I think I can’t do any more he always carries me that little bit extra. He drives the rhythm and keeps it fresh, and this is where the edge comes in. He is deep rooted in hip hop, rap and funk, soul and jazz and brings all this into each and every song.

We are like yin and yang, in fact exactly like that, musically and in our everyday married life. We have been playing and living together for the last 19 years, we finally got married in 2012.We have two children, two cats, a fabulous band who are like family and a van called Talullah. We are truly blessed and we never forget it.

Could you tell us about your personal background and how it has influenced what you bring to the band?

I am a singer songwriter primarily, classically trained, and studied Bach chorales and Bach harmony in some depth, so I bring solid songwriting, as well as a somewhat quirky take on things. The funk is provided by my fabulous band, but for me it’s the words and the chords and the way a melody hangs over a chord that is important.

The Fabulous Red Diesel

The Fabulous Red Diesel

TFRD drummer Will Lee-Ryan

TFRD drummer Will Lee-Ryan








Musical influences and style

Who/what have been some of your main musical influences?

My musical influences have included, Kate Bush, Barbara Streisand, Mary Coughlan, Pink Floyd, Ricky Lee Jones, Bette Midler, Doreen Webster, Bach, Tracey Chapman, and Nina Simone.

As well as doing vocals you play a variety of musical instruments including keyboards, flute, cello and squeezebox…. Have you a favorite, and how would you describe your relationship with these various instruments?

My favorite is piano, the sound of it, and the way it makes you feel. Since being tiny it was always like home to me, and I don’t like being without access to a piano for more than a day or so. I wanted to be buried in mine at one time, and used to sleep on the floor underneath it (I don’t do either anymore!). Flute is second, it’s like singing but more brutal, more direct, then cello, at which I suck big-time but it feels so good, the vibrations go right through your body and it’s so intensely physical. Squeezebox is difficult, I mean not the piano bit, the squeezing in and out bit, but fun and useful when there is no electricity in a field!

How would you characterize TFRD in terms of musical style/s or genre?

To make it easy we say it is festi- funk, although there are elements of jazz, blues, and soul as well.

I’m drawn to groups for their musicality but also admire theatricality, audience engagement, and the ability to get people dancing. You tick all these boxes – how do you do it?

That is a difficult question. The rhythm section do the dance thing, they are seriously funky, we all like to be fairly theatrical , but it isn’t particularly planned,  Audience engagement I believe comes from the band being immersed in what they are doing and loving it, and when that happens, generally speaking the audience follow suit.

You have been praised for your humorous, sometimes irreverent treatment of serious issues including mental illness and gender relations. What are some of the sources for your songs and who does the writing?

I write all the songs, lyrics and chords. The inspiration comes from my life, and the lives of people I know well. I try to be as kind as I can, unless someone has seriously ticked me off and then I get my revenge, all tongue in cheek of course.

Community issues & hopes for the future

You are passionate about community issues and regularly support local campaigns. Could you comment on this dimension of your life?

I have always been a person who is unable to keep quiet if something seems wrong to me. I am constantly horrified by the abuse of power which occurs, even at local levels, where locals are ignored in favour of profits, and people’s lives are ruined for the sake of a few quid. The current trend in St Leonards to knock down beautiful Victorian houses and replace them with rabbit-hutch style flats is appalling and I think you have to stand up and say no. Fracking is another horrendous violation of people’s environment, and if everyone said no instead of sitting about and ignoring the situation then something would change. There are more of us than there are of them, simple maths.

What are some ways in which you deal with the wear and tear of being on the road?

Go home often and garden.

How about hopes for the future, for yourself – for the band?

I would like to get on the Jools Holland show, play Ronnie Scotts, and build up a good touring circuit in France and Holland. We are talking to a French agent at the moment so fingers crossed it will get us busy next year. We will be going into the studio this winter to do our third album, and we would dearly like to get played regularly on Jazz FM as that would sell it very nicely. We enjoy the local gigs so would never want to stop those; just supplement them with some more far-reaching ones! Ooh and the jazz stage at Glasto, we normally do the fringe stages, but the jazz stage would be fabulous!

Local gigs:

  • Saturday, October 5th, 2013, St Mary in The Castle, Pelham Place Hastings East Sussex TN34 3AF GB 01424 717592
  • Friday, November 8th, 2013,  Pissaros,  The Fabulous Red Diesel – 9.30pm   9 South Terrace, Hastings, East Sussex TN34 1SA GB 01424 421 363
  • TFRD are playing at the Jenny Lind, New Year’s Eve

For further information see website:
Twitter: @FabRedDiesel
Facebook: TheFabulousReddiesel
Youtube: katdogization

SOS, Sept 2013

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Posted 12:30 Tuesday, Sep 10, 2013 In: SOS

Also in: SOS

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